MORE than £1.5 million has been given to the diocese of Blackburn for work in outer urban estates and parishes, including the recruitment of lay leaders who can “sing the gospel in a language that connects with people’s lives”, it was announced this week.
The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, welcomed the Strategic Development Funding (SDF) with the observation that “unless a significant amount goes to the poorest communities, we are never going to renew the Church”. This is the first time that the diocese has received a share of the £59 million that has been distributed since 2014.
The £1.54 million will be spent over six years. A lead evangelist and pioneer evangelist will be based at Grange Park Church Army Centre of Mission, in Blackpool. It will receive a boost for its work on the estate, and a network will be set up in the city to help parishes support each other in mission and evangelism.
At Lower Darwen, an estates-based Leadership College will be established. Two urban evangelists will be working with the Vicar of St James’s, Lower Darwen, the Revd Tim Horobin. The money will also fund 20 young adults to take part in the Blackpool Ministry Experience, living on the Mereside estate, Blackpool (Features, 1 December).
DIOCESE OF BLACKBURNFirst-years: the Revd Linda Tomkinson, from Freedom Church, Mereside, in Blackpool, with two volunteers in the Blackpool Ministry ExperienceBishop North said this week that the Church had made a “slow withdrawal” from urban estates in the diocese, referring to the closure of churches in Mereside, Grange Park, Moor Nook, and Shadsworth. The funding would help to fund new congregations planted on estates, but also to grow vocations among local people.
Earlier this year, he described how the Church’s structures for selecting and training leaders were “woefully unfit for purpose, and deliver only white, graduate-class leaders” (News, 11 August). This week, he said that the Church needed a balance of “educated, middle-class people who have committed their lives to urban ministry”, and “local indigenous leaders” who could be trained “in a totally new way that is contextual”. This would not be based on essays and book-learning, but “more on mentoring and reflection on experience”. Initially, the focus would be on lay leaders, but he hoped that, in time, it would also lead to ordinations.
He compared such leaders to Caedmon, a seventh-century shepherd boy whose gift for music was nurtured by St Hilda, enabling him to “sing the gospel to the local people in a language they could understand”. The traditional parish model was “not really working” on estates, he said, and it had been a “mistake” during the 1960s to cut off new estates from existing parish churches.
Success for the project would not look like “mega-churches of 700”, he said, but new Christian communities on estates numbering “around 40”, with a “strong emphasis on belonging and family and relationships”.
DIOCESE OF BLACKBURNBishop North (front row, far left) with clergy and laity from Blackburn diocese estates parishes, at a conference on estates evangelism earlier this year at St James’s, Lower Darwen, led by the Bishop. St James’s is where the leadership hub part of the programme will be basedSeven other dioceses received a share of £24.4-million of grants announced this week, which included the largest individual sums to date. London received £8.69 million, taking its total to date to £11.5 million, compared with a diocesan average of £2 million. Fourteen dioceses have yet to receive a grant. Leeds, Birmingham, Winchester, and Liverpool have all received more than £3 million since 2014.
Resource church proposals continue to secure significant sums. Last week, the Archdeacon of Rochdale, the Ven. Cherry Vann, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, posted on Twitter: “Strategic Development Funding available for mission in all traditions. Be great to see more bids to support catholic evangelism.”
Bath and Wells: awarded £1.61 million to fund nine new pioneer posts to “reach out to areas and communities where the church has little impact”, focusing on deprivation, new communities, and young people. Recruitment of lay and ordained people will begin in 2018, and the diocese will also seek to recruit and train voluntary “grassroots pioneers”.
Bristol: awarded £1.45 million for “revitalising ministry in the city of Bristol”.
Leeds: allocated £3.09 million for “strengthening mission across the city of Leeds through developing a series of resource churches which will have the ability to plant”. The first of the five planned churches is St George’s, Leeds, which recently sent a curate and 25 members of its congregation to join St Paul’s, Ireland Wood (News, 10 November).
Liverpool: received its third grant — £1.88 million — taking its total to almost £3.8 million, to create a network of resource churches to develop mission in three towns: St Helen’s, Warrington, and Widnes. A statement from the diocese said that resource churches had proved “particularly successful in affluent university towns”, but that this project would work in “areas of significant deprivation”. The designated churches are three Evangelical churches based in the towns’ centres: Holy Trinity, Warrington; St Helen’s Parish Church; and Holy Trinity, Warrington. Each is expected to “focus on social justice”, and to plant within three years so that, within five years, there will be 1200 new worshippers across nine churches.
London: granted £8.69 million. A total of £4.8 million will “enable more than 100 churches of every tradition in the diocese of London to go on a Church Growth Learning Community” course, and to “resource churches to train planting curates to invest back into the diocese of London and revitalise churches”.
Another £3.89 million has been allocated for “training curates to be deployed nationally to lead city centre resource churches at the invitation of diocesan bishops across England”, a mission championed in recent years by Holy Trinity, Brompton, which is currently training some priests with the expectation of leading plants outside London.
Sheffield: received £1.84 million towards “developing mission and ministry to children, young people, and families”. The money will help to grow the dioceses’s Centenary Project, launched in 2014 with £1 million of the diocese’s reserve funds. It will enable the appointment of another ten to 15 project workers, in addition to the 14 already working in parishes with these groups. Among the goals is “active ongoing engagement with at least an additional 2000 children, young people, and families, many unchurched, leading to 300 moving into discipleship groups”. Money will also go to work with St Thomas’s, Crookes, which runs large events with live music for young people through its project Shine.
Winchester: received £4.23 million for “piloting new approaches to rural mission; reinvigorating urban mission in Southampton and North Hampshire; investing in mission in new housing development areas; and revitalising student ministry”.